Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck is off to a great start to his career. He’s a pro-bowler, a playoff quarterback, as well as being touted as the next Peyton Manning, and keep in mind, he has only played his rookie season. However, the one challenge that Luck must face is the notorious “sophomore slump.” Luck could either overcome this potential bump in the road, or fall victim to the dreaded second year curse like so many have before.
In Luck’s rookie year, he took over a young, revamped Colts squad that finished at a disappointing (that’s an understatement) 2-14 record. Indianapolis went into the 2011 campaign in a rebuilding phase after parting ways with stars Peyton Manning, Dallas Clark and Pierre Garcon. This season, Luck took hold of the offense and put up strong rookie passing numbers with 4,374 passing yards and 23 touchdowns. As good as Luck was on offense, he also had his fair share of pitfalls too. Andrew Luck was tied for third in the league with 18 interceptions, and ranked fourth in sacks taken with 41. Regardless, he took the Colts to the playoffs with an 11-5 record.
With Luck’s rookie season aside, the discussion must now be had of what will come of his performance in 2013. The sophomore slump is highly common, as last year’s rookie sensation Cam Newton of the Panthers found out this year. This so called “curse” is not merely superstition, but the fact that other NFL teams have now seen what you can do, and have an entire off-season to prepare for that style of play. With a great first season behind him, is Andrew Luck now set to endure the same fate?
Going into the 2013 campaign, Luck is ready to study under new Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton (formerly of Stanford University), who was Luck’s offensive coordinator during his senior year of college. Hamilton replaces former offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who is now the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, and will now have head coach Chuck Pagano back at the helm for the entire season. Andrew Luck will be running a somewhat new, yet familiar, system under Hamilton. Therefore, the teams studying Luck this off-season will be facing new offensive schemes come next fall. Also, the familiarity with this new system from Stanford will make re-adapting to it an easy task for a quarterback of Luck’s intelligence.
Not only does having Pep Hamilton help Andrew Luck, but current Colts’ and former Stanford tight end Coby Fleener will also benefit. Fleener knows the system just as well, and can take advantage of this chemistry with Luck for positive on-field performances. When they ran the two tight end system in college, Stanford had major success. Utilizing both Fleener and their other tight end Dwayne Allen, Indianapolis can find success similar to the double tight end system used by the Patriots.
As promising as the new season looks, some key issues must be addressed. Looking at the Colts’ running game and pass protection, it is clear that they must improve on the offensive line. Such needs can be addressed in the upcoming NFL draft, and taking a big O-lineman in a draft dominated by talented offensive tackles and guards is highly recommended. Also, as great as wide receiver Reggie Wayne is (1,355 receiving yards, 106 receptions, and 5 touchdowns this season), he’s not getting any younger, and he will eventually begin to slow down. It’s imperative for young guys like T.Y. Hilton to continue to improve and mature for the Colts to maintain offensive success.
The scale can tip in either direction for Luck and the Colts in 2013. However, it won’t be the superstition for the Colts that will determine the outcome of the season. It’s the continued maturation of Andrew Luck, their new offensive system, and their improvement through the draft. I predict Luck will put up similar, but slightly less numbers next season, and the Colts will finish at an even 8-8. Just remember though, he’s still the same quarterback, and still primed for success.